Film & TV

"Kaboom": Beautiful Horndogs Get Blown

As spacey as its title suggests, Gregg Araki's latest youth film is an occult mystery set in the ultimate SoCal college playpen. Kaboom is Scooby Doo with sex, drugs, and tattooed hotties; following on the heels of Araki's relatively commercial stoner farce Smiley Face (2007), the movie makes you wonder whether Mysterious Skin (2005), his surprisingly serious and emotionally subtle evocation of pedophilia, was basically a one-off. Now 51, the director seems nostalgic for the self-characterized irresponsibility that was his youthful trademark. Kaboom shows him nearly as rambunctious as he was in the early '90s, when he burst upon the indie scene as the leading bad boy of the New Queer Cinema. Like Nowhere (1997), the old-school Araki film that Kaboom most resembles, teenaged fantasy runs rampant. There is ample reason to assume the movie is a dream of college by "ambisexual" freshman and would-be cinema-studies major Smith (Thomas Dekker). Smith has a hunky surfer roommate named Thor (Chris Zylka), who sits down on his bed naked and says, "I've never kissed another guy before" — wait, that is a dream! With its pop colors and compositions — including a giant close-up of mac-and-cheese — Kaboom is a garish billboard for id unbridled. The film does have an excellent punch line, although even at 86 minutes, it feels too long — mainly because Araki can't help letting his camera linger over his performers. Hard to blame him — he's assembled the best-looking cast in town, and it's largely his gaga appreciation that makes the movie so much fun.

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J. Hoberman
Contact: J. Hoberman